Friday, June 21, 2013

I have moved

This site is now an archive site, I have moved the blog to my own server.

For all future blog posts please visit or

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Back yard birds

I had a day out planned with a friend and our cameras. We had a list of places to go and subjects to photograph but alas all of them required fine weather, if not sunshine. Of course today it rained so we ended up inside shooting out the french doors.  At least we were dry, the birds certainly weren't, but that didn't stop them from bouncing around the trees and ferns for us.

While the waxeye numbers have increased it is interesting to note some of the differences in the birds. Last year we had 'broken beak', I haven't seen him this year so his handicap may well have caused his early demise.  This year we have a couple of birds with what can best be described as 'muted' colours, we have one with a bald patch on his head, and today I noticed one with black feathers on its head.

The black feathers just look wrong as they should be green but they do make this bird stand out from the rest. Somewhere there must be a dominant gene for black feathers, or someone jumped the nest a couple of times! I have resisted giving them names because there would be way to many to remember.

Our resident tui came by a few times while we were sitting there. He was singing us a delightful tune before popping in for a feed. We can almost stand right next to him now (providing we don't have a camera in hand) and he enjoys it when we talk to him. As soon as there is a camera in sight then the standard distance must be observed or he is gone. We are very lucky that we have such beautiful birds visiting our back yard.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Help! My bow tie is crooked

This afternoon we had a new visitor to the garden. He had a very angry looking face, a yellow mustache and a crooked bow tie. I think he must have woken up on the wrong side of the branch this morning and decided it was time to investigate where all the noise was coming from. We had a lot of bird noise this afternoon. 

This tui is definitely a new visitor as his two white throat feathers were off centre. This will make him easy to identify if he decides to come back.  He flew in at speed, checked out the tree before jumping onto the roofs of both the feeders one after the other, then flew off again. He didn't bother to taste the nectar on offer so obviously wasn't hungry and by the looks of the pollen around his beak, he is finding plenty of food elsewhere.

The waxeyes always disappear into the depths of the trees whenever there is a tui about. As soon as you hear the swooping wings of the tui, they just vanish. You know they are there and every now and then you can hear them chirping away to each other.  "Is he gone yet? Is it safe? Can we come out yet?"  Once the all clear is given they flock back to the feeders as if there was never a threat.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Behaviour and displays of affection

I have been doing some reading up on the behaviour of the waxeyes today to see what I should be watching for.  It seems that I have already been witnessing courtship behaviour.  We have several established pairs in our flock and all the books say that paired waxeyes are very affectionate to each other. Lots of mutual preening (which I have already seen) and huddling close to each other.

Today in one of the trees I could see at least three pairs huddling together and preening each other. I couldn't get a great shot because of where they were and the bad lighting but trust me when I say there was a lot of canoodling going on in that tree! Hopefully next spring we will have lots of fluff ball chicks as a result.

Numbers are still increasing so I think word is getting around that there is food here on a regular basis. Lucky for the birds we are going to have someone house sitting for us and feeding them when we go away later in the year.  Having gotten them so used to coming here when their food supply is low, I don't think it is fair to just leave them unattended for any length of time. That would just be too cruel.

Displaying affection and mutual preening.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fluff balls

Since we have had the feeders out I have seen several clutches of waxeye chicks appear. I was lucky enough with the first couple to be able to photograph the parent birds feeding them, but I have missed that activity with the others. They are easy to pick out though as the chicks are generally more like little balls of fluff compared to their sleek parents.

Waxeyes can have several clutches of chicks in a season and with such a long summer I think that is exactly what they did. The last lot of chicks are bouncing around the branches now and looking extremely cute in their fluffed up state. One of the advantages of their being with us as fledglings is that they have less fear of us, so they are coming in closer and not bothering too much about the camera.

This afternoon I counted upwards of twenty waxeyes at one time around the feeders. They are chasing away the sparrows and putting on wonderful displays of dominance to each other. It's had to know how they work out who is the top dog (or bird) as they are all prancing about doing their little dominance dance. There are a few obvious pairs but I will be interested to watch their mating rituals in spring now that they are so comfortable being around us.

The dominance dance

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Who needs the sun?

Yesterday I went in search of sunshine and found very little. Today there was nothing but low grey clouds and rain, but I decided that I should be able to come up with something even in these conditions!  I like to challenge myself and low light conditions are the norm in the bush where most of the birds are, so I thought I should practice photographing the birds in low light.

All of these images were taken today in today's conditions. There has been very little post processing done on them and other than increasing the ISO setting on the camera and setting the white balance to cloudy, I did nothing different to what I normally do in the bright light. The neighbours probably thought I was made sitting in an open doorway on a bar stool in the cold taking photos but that's ok. I am happy to be the mad bird lady!

The rapid wing flapping is a display of dominance.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dive practice

Today I deliberately went to the kingfishers when I knew the tide would be still in. The sun was supposed to be shining and I wanted to concentrate of capturing them diving for crabs in the shallow water. Well two out of three isn't bad but it doesn't make good images. The sun let me down so all I got to do was practice my timing and focusing.

This set of images is grainy and not what I would normally post but I am doing so to show what goes behind a great image. Lots and lots of practice to get to the point of being able to focus fast enough to capture the bird as it leaves the water. The kingfishers are perched in a tree over the water and when they dive they do so with the intention of catching a crab they have spotted, and they do so at great speed.

The trick is to get the camera to focus on the bird as it dives into the water so that you can capture it as it leaves the water, bearing in mind that this is pretty much a split second situation so you have to be on your game. I found myself keeping both eyes open, one on the viewfinder and one watching where the bird was going, this allowed me to point the camera in the right direction for focusing.

In the past I have fluked a few really cool shots of the kingfishers diving but I haven't actually sought it out as the primary subject before. I can see it taking a good long while before I am satisfied with the results from this exercise.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Finding space

Not so long ago I got  new wizzy fast computer with lots of hard drive space. I am sure I told you all about it when it arrived, it's an awesome computer!  Now it is an awesome computer with full data drives! I have all my old images (prior to 2010) stored on external drives and everything from the last two and a half years on the internal 2 TB drive. You would think that would be heaps of space but no, it's full!

So I am busy going through all my old stuff and culling out the rubbish. There is a lot of rubbish and as I raise the bar with the quality of my images I am able to be more ruthless with the rubbish. I see no point in keeping something that is 'possibly ok'. If it is not sharp and clear it's gone.  So far I have retrieved 350GB, so I can go out this weekend and take more photos!

Ultimately I need to get another internal drive for the computer and this time I am eying up a 3TB drive. I have no intention of slowing down the amount of images I take but I am going to have to get more ruthless about what I keep. There is no point in having several images that are almost identical, I only need one of each.

This afternoon the sun was shining when I had finished work so instead of photographing the birds from inside like I normally do, I took a chair out to the lawn and sat a similar distance away from the feeders. The birds didn't seem to mind my being there and bounced happily around me. It allowed me to get some shots of them on different perches for a change and I am really liking the results.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Trying out a new food source...

Wing stuck

We were at the Mad Butcher's the other day and my husband found a large netted ball of something covered in breadcrumbs labeled "Winter Wild Bird Feed" or something there abouts. I have no idea what was in it but it was very heavy. At only $3.50 we thought it would be worth getting to see if the birds liked it.

Getting untangled

We hung it on the side of the bird feeders and for the better part of an hour they wouldn't go anywhere near it. After that it was just a convenient perch to hang out on. Not one bird would feed off it. We even tried not feeding them any sugar water or fruit to see if they would go to it but alas they have been too spoilt. Not even the sparrows were interested.

Some privacy would be nice!

So today I decided it wasn't worth leaving there, knowing that the blow flies were going to love it and I wasn't about to let it become live food for any of the birds no matter how much they would have liked it then. So I tried something else.  I took it down from the feeder, tossed it on the lawn and tossed a couple of slices of stale bread out too.

The starlings are not shy once they find a food source and they ripped into it with a passion. From there it was just a matter of time before the sparrows moved in. Now, the waxeyes have taken ownership and are feeding happily on it and chasing every other bird that comes near away!  I don't think I will be buying any more though, as it was way too big and I am not keen on attracting the flies.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Post Processing

As a photographer I know I am always comparing my images to others that I consider are better than me in an effort to try and achieve the same level.  This is not always a good idea because of the many variables involved in the process of actually making the image and I often feel like I am constantly coming up short.

I look at an image of a bird that has been shot with a huge prime lens and I know that I am never going to achieve that quality with the lens I have, but that doesn't mean I am not going to get images that are not as good or even better. My lens allows me more flexibility, I can hand hold it or use a monopod and this makes it very mobile. Some of the bigger prime lenses are very heavy and need to be mounted on a very sturdy tripod. I could never lug one of them around, I am just not that strong!

They shiver their wings semi spread in a display of dominance.

So I am gradually coming to the conclusion that while I can strive to get better I should be happy with what I am achieving. A lot of the difference can be made in post processing also. A friend showed me one of her bird shots recently and said "it's not as sharp as I would like". I could hear myself saying the same thing about my own shots.

The thing is, that most if not all bird photos shot with digital cameras require a certain amount of sharpening that the camera can't or doesn't do. Once you realise that, you can look at ways to improve your images in post processing and find that a lot of reject images suddenly become stunners! I am currently working between the old and the new in terms of my workflows in post processing and I think I am getting the hang of  it.